SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan spent a portion of his media session Thursday expressing his delight with this group of 49ers, insisting that the next 10 days, when he and general manager John Lynch trim the roster to 53 players, will be the most difficult yet.
“This is different than every other year where we’ve had to where getting down to this final 53 is going to be a lot more stressful for John and I than it has been in the past,” Shanahan said, referring to his first two seasons as coach.
“Usually, you’re excited to do it a little bit more, because we already know who it is and we’re hoping, we think there’s five guys on someone else’s roster that we can add to our 53. We know we have more than 53 players now and we’ve also got a lot of guys out, too.”
Shanahan seemed particularly pleased with the potential of his receiving corps, with its broad combination of sizes and shapes and experience levels.
“We’ve got some guys who need to understand and get more confident in the physical part of the game,” Shanahan said. “And then we’ve got some guys who have no issue with the physical part of the game. They’ve got to be able to chill out a little bit and quit trying to kill people and execute.”
Though Shanahan avoided identifying which players fit into which category, it has become apparent the coaching staff craves more assertiveness from second-year wideout Dante Pettis.
With rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd going full blast, Pettis looks to be cruising. He seems to realize it and believes he has hit his personal restart button.
“I finally feel like I’m now getting back to how I should be playing -- explosive and consistent,” Pettis told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I got off to kind of a slow start, but I feel like I’m picking it up.”
Pettis’ ability is not in question. He inherited wheels from his father, Gary Pettis, who stole 354 bases over 10 big league seasons as a center fielder for four different teams. Young Pettis is an inch or two taller than his 6-foot father and outweighs him by 30 pounds.
What seems to be in question is Pettis’ commitment and ambition. He is a free spirit, with varied interests beyond football. He enjoys the game but doesn’t inject it into his veins as, say, Jerry Rice did -- and as coaches like to see.
If that were the case, Pettis might already have secured a starting spot. He started last week at Denver and was targeted once, with Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
The arc of Pettis’ career at the University of Washington shows improvement every season, from 17 catches as a freshman, to 30 as a sophomore, 53 as a junior and 63 in his senior season, during which he also returned four punts for touchdowns. His nine touchdowns on punt returns as a Huskie is the NCAA career record.
It also is evidence to the explosiveness referred to earlier. It was one of the factors that prompted the 49es to draft him in the second round (No. 44 overall) 16 months ago.
Pettis played 12 games (seven starts) as a rookie, recording 27 catches for 467 yards and five touchdowns. He battled injuries and was inactive for three games last October with a knee injury.
He also provided a glimpse of what’s possible last Dec. 2 at Seattle, with five catches, for 129 yards and two touchdowns. That’s the kind of production the 49ers are looking for from a starter.
“You want to put good stuff on tape in the preseason,” Pettis said. “But the last game, I got like 10 plays. So, it’s not too big of a sample size to get a lot of good plays. But the coaches know that, too.
“Since I’m young, I have to show them.”